Women’s History in the U.S.: Scholastic’s True Book Series with authors Cynthia Chin-Lee (Women and the Right to Vote), Kesha Grant (Women in the Civil Rights Movement), and Selene Castrovilla (Founding Mothers of the United States) was presented via Zoom, Sunday, 11/1/20. Notes taken by Barbara Senenman
Each author spoke about her book and the people they chose to include and why. They also spoke about the series and the special features in each book. Because of low word counts, careful choices were needed on what to include. Each was amazed by the information discovered.
How do you know when to stop researching?
Selene: When I read the same information over and over, it’s time to stop. Deadlines are a factor.
Kesha: Depends on the book. For the True Books, word count and deadlines were factors. It was hard to figure out what new info to cut. She thinks about flow and the content of the book. No research is wasted. All goes into a file for possible use later.
Selene added that she hopes that whatever is in the book will start conversations and students and teachers will want to read more elsewhere.
Did you need permission for any of the information?
Because all these events took place long ago, most information was in the public domain, and they didn’t need permission. They did need it for some of the artwork.
Where did you get your information?
Cynthia: Most of her information came from her library and the Internet.
Kesha: The same. She searched the Internet for historical societies, university journals, and academic papers about the civil rights movement and also checked out library books. Many of the people she researched had written autobiographies.
Selene: She usually visits places where the events took place and had visited some of these places for prior books. But the deadline was tight. When researching online, you need to do a deep dive. Wikipedia is not a good source, but look at the sources sited at the bottom of the page. Some of the places mentioned in her book have a website. She was able to read actual letters.
How do you organize the research?
Kesha: She organizes based on the structure of the book. Her challenge for this book was to integrate the information into one story, not just profiles of people. She used a timeline.
Cynthia: She prints out everything and puts into folders. She uses Scrivener to organize her writing. She advises keeping careful records so you can site the sources. Also, once she has a timeline, she has the sequence of how she’s going to write. For this book, some of the words she had to cut were used as captions for illustrations.
Some thoughts from the authors: Children need to know the truth. They have to learn the good and the bad. It broadens the perspective of who we are. Writers bring information and hope readers use it well.